When Jesus analyzed his times, he did not flatter his generation. We can paraphrase him as saying, “Your generation is like a group of spoiled children, expecting the other kids — and their God — to do as they command.”
His actual words:
To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” (Matthew 11:16–17)
That generation played happy music and sad music, and expected the Messiah and John the Baptist to respond appropriately. If the children played the flute, John must tighten his leather belt and dance. If they played a sad song, the Son of God must mourn. They expected compliance to their tune.
More than that, Jesus depicts the people of his day as children who change the rules and move the goalposts. When John did not come eating and drinking, they said he had a demon (Matthew 11:18). When Jesus did come eating and drinking, they called him a glutton and a drunkard (Matthew 11:19). Drink or not drink, eat or not eat, those children would not be appeased with anything less than full allegiance.
Is our generation much different today?
Get to Dancing
Today the children still play their music and expect Christ’s people to respond appropriately. “The course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2) still runs against Christ and his gospel, as it has since Adam and Eve first played the serpent’s song in Eden. This generation promotes its own ideals and often is not satisfied until Christians love what it loves and hate what it hates.
The “gender” song plays throughout society:
Boys can be girls, and girls can be boys;
We are our maker — our bodies, our toys.
The flute celebrates homosexuality:
It’s brave to be different; it’s okay to be you.
Boy and boy, girl and girl? — it’s called “marriage” too.
A dirge plays at the gravesite of masculinity:
While forever grateful, we’ve no need to pretend
That Eve still needs Adam or this world needs men.
Meanwhile, the lament of self-proclaimed victimhood sounds forth:
Racism, sexism, and hidden aggression,
Turn left or turn right, all I see is oppression!
And of course, they softly play the soothing abortion lullaby:
It is not a baby — don’t feel any shame.
It hasn’t a voice or a smile or a name.
Why So Serious?
The point is not that this world is unbroken by sin — including actual racism, sexism, injustice, and more. Rather, the point is that this generation, in total rebellion to the kingship of Jesus Christ, arrogantly seeks to enforce its view of right and wrong upon his people. The world desires, as it did with the Baptist and the Messiah, our allegiance.
“The children of this generation will not agree to disagree — you must dance; you must mourn.”
The children of this generation will not agree to disagree — you must dance; you must mourn. They check your face for tears and your feet for proper rhythm. If you cry during their cheerful song, you have a demon. If your feet dance to another tune, you are a drunkard, sinner, and glutton. Refuse to consent, and the new powers try to cancel you as a champion of hate. Nonconformity to the world is met with consequences.
Not of this World
Some of us dance and cry with the world too long, it seems to me, out of a mistaken assumption. When they slander and dislike us for following Christ, tender consciences might assume that we are to blame. We weren’t winsome enough when sharing the gospel. It must be our fault somehow. What could we have done differently?
Do we consider that the petulant child will wag its finger, name call, and worse, not necessarily because of a bad decision we made but because of a gracious decision made about us? “If you were of the world,” our Lord tells us, “the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).
Our winsomeness, our cultural relevance, and our trying to disclaim everything to the point of non-offense can’t substitute for dancing. The world will still hate us — or should hate us (John 15:20) — because we aren’t the decisive reason for their hatred; Jesus is. His choosing us out of the world — not our inability to tastefully decline this world — is fundamentally what makes the Christian hated in this life.
Will You Dance?
They will dislike us not fundamentally because of a choice Jesus made, but because of Jesus himself. When we notice the world against us, Jesus would have us know something: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
“A moment will come — if it hasn’t already — where we must decide whom to displease: Christ or this generation.”
The children dislike you because the children dislike Christ. They hate that the King, now risen from the dead, still will not dance or weep on cue. While we continue to grow in our ability to faithfully engage unbelievers, Jesus would have us realize that their frowns and scowls and slanders are strikes at a Christ they can no longer crucify.
Decide now. A moment will come — if it hasn’t already — where we must decide whom to displease: Christ or this generation. Perhaps you’ve already started to nod your head, rock, and sway to the beat.
Listen instead to Christ’s voice. Hear his gospel song calling you home through the wilderness of this world. Resist being swept away with this world: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). And who knows if one of these children might see that piercing light in you (that they’ve been trying to extinguish) and turn in repentance to Christ.